Adam Isacson

Defense, security, borders, migration, and human rights in Latin America and the United States. May not reflect my employer’s consensus view.


December 2018

Q&A: Why Trump’s Latest Asylum Decision Will Put Migrants’ Lives in Danger

Just before the holiday, Mother Jones ran a Q&A between me and reporter Noah Lanard about the Trump administration’s newly announced “Remain in Mexico” policy. At least until it’s struck down by the courts, this policy, agreed with Mexico’s new government, will let asylum-seekers from third countries await their immigration court hearing dates inside Mexico.

I voice my perplexity about why Mexico would have agreed to this. It could leave hundreds of thousands of people spending years on Mexican soil waiting for under-funded, undermanned U.S. immigration courts to get through their backlog.

[T]hese decisions are being made by Mexico’s foreign ministry more than the agencies that are actually in charge of dealing with migrants. The foreign minister is a former mayor of Mexico City who is a smart guy but I don’t think is well-versed in the ins and outs of migration.

>I can’t imagine they’ve reckoned with the sheer number of people they would be dealing with. I think maybe in their mind they thought they only would be taking 10,000 a year or something. But it will be many times that if this is fully implemented. In 2018 alone, 93,000 people had credible fear interviews [the first step in the asylum process], and just last month, more than 30,000 Central American kids and family members arrived at the border. I think they’re going to be backpedalling.

Read the whole thing here: Why Trump’s Latest Asylum Decision Will Put Migrants’ Lives in Danger

My top 60 albums of 2018

It’s Saturday. Christmas is approaching. The U.S. government is partially shut down, but there’s nothing we can do about that. Let’s go off-topic.

I listen to hours of music each day, mostly while working. I also like data. I have a system of adding new music and rating songs, which—if things slow down over the holidays—perhaps I’ll explain in a post. Using that, it took just a few minutes this morning to export, from iTunes to Excel, every song to which I gave a good rating in 2018, then add up the ratings to give each album a score. And then, to sort out the albums I liked best. The result looked right to me.

So here are the 60 albums I liked best in 2018. It wasn’t a good year for a lot of things, but it was a good year for music.  May you discover something here that makes you happy.

1 Wild Pink, Yolk in the Fur (Heartland/indie rock from Brooklyn). My score: 479. Standout tracks: “Yolk in the Fur,” “Lake Erie,” “There Is a Ledger,” “The Seance on St. Augustine St.”

2 Deeper, Deeper (Rock from Chicago). My score: 444. Standout tracks: “Taxi,” Message Erased,” “Trust,” “Feels”

3 The Internet, Hive Mind (R&B/Soul from Los Angeles). My score: 365. Standout tracks: “Mood,” “Next Time / Humble Pie,” “La Di Da,” “Come Together”

4 The Beths, Future Me Hates Me (Indie pop/rock from Auckland, New Zealand). My score: 354. Standout tracks: “Less Than Thou,” “Great No One,” “River Run: Lvl 1,” “Little Death”

5 Soccer Mommy, Clean (Indie pop/rock from Nashville). My score: 328. Standout tracks: “Skin,” “Cool,” “Scorpio Rising.”

6 Flasher, Constant Image (Alternative/indie from DC). My score: 324. Standout tracks: “Pressure,” “Punching Up,” “Who’s Got Time?,” “Sun Come and Golden”

7 Ólafur Arnalds, re:member (Classical crossover/ambient from Mosfellsbær, Iceland). My score: 311. Standout tracks: “inconsist,” “ekki hugsa,” “re:member”

8 Teenage Wrist, Chrome Neon Jesus (Alternative/shoegaze from Los Angeles). My score: 311. Standout tracks: “Chrome Neon Jesus,” “Black Flamingo,” “Stoned, Alone”

9 The Hold Steady, singles released throughout the year: “Eureka,” “Confusion In The Marketplace,” “The Stove & The Toaster,” “Entitlement Crew” (Alternative/indie rock from Brooklyn). My score: 276.

10 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Hope Downs (Indie pop/rock from Melbourne, Australia). My score: 269. Standout tracks: “How Long?” “Talking Straight,” “An Air Conditioned Man,” “Mainland”

11 Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour (Country/pop from Mineola, Texas). My score: 263. Standout tracks: “Slow Burn,” “Lonely Weekend,” “High Horse”

12 Dirty Projectors, Lamp Lit Prose (Indie/art rock from Brooklyn).My score: 218. Standout tracks: “Break-Thru,” “Right Now (feat. Syd),” “Zombie Conqueror (feat. Empress Of),” “That’s A Lifestyle”

13 Hatchie, Sugar and Spice EP (Dream pop from Brisbane, Australia). My score: 216. Standout tracks: “Sure,” “Sleep,” “Sugar & Spice”

14 Hop Along, Bark Your Head Off, Dog (Indie/folk rock from Philadelphia). My score: 213. Standout tracks: “Prior Things,” “One That Suits Me”

15 Snail Mail, Lush (Indie rock from Baltimore suburbs). My score: 213. Standout tracks: “Pristine,” “Heat Wave,” “Full Control”

16 Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer (Funk/R&B from Atlanta). My score: 213. Standout tracks: “Crazy, Classic, Life,” “I Got The Juice (feat. Pharrell Williams)”

17 Mitski, Be the Cowboy (Indie rock from New York City). My score: 211. Standout tracks: “Me and My Husband,” “Geyser,” “A Pearl”

18 Jon Hopkins, Singularity (Electronic/IDM from UK). My score: 193. Standout tracks: “Everything Connected (Edit),” “Emerald Rush,” “Luminous Beings”

19 Death Cab for Cutie, Thank You for Today (Indie pop/rock from Bellingham, Washington). My score: 184. Standout tracks: “Gold Rush,” “When We Drive”

20 J Mascis, Elastic Days (Alternative rock from Amherst, Massachusetts). My score: 183. Standout tracks: “Sky Is All We Had,” “Everything She Said,” “See You at the Movies”

21 Roosevelt, Young Romance (Indie electronic synth-pop from Viersen, Germany). My score: 183. Standout tracks: “Getaway,” “Illusions,” “Losing Touch”

22 The Essex Green, Hardly Electronic (Indie pop/rock from Brooklyn and Vermont). My score: 174. Standout tracks: “The 710,” “Waikiki”

23 CHVRCHES, Love Is Dead (Indie synth-pop from Glasgow, Scotland). My score: 172. Standout tracks: “Deliverance,” “Graves.”

24 Aterciopelados, Claroscura (Latin alternative/rock en español from Bogotá, Colombia). My score: 171. Standout tracks: “Ay Ombe (Vamo’ a Relajar el Pony) [feat. Jorge Celedón],” “Soñemos un Bosque,” “Despierta Mujer.”

25 Israel Nash, Lifted (Indie rock from Dripping Springs, Texas). My score: 162. Standout tracks: “Sweet Springs,” “Rolling On,” “Looking Glass”

26 Lala Lala, The Lamb (Indie rock from Chicago). My score: 160. Standout tracks: “Destroyer,” “Dropout.”

27 Jenn Champion, Single Rider (Alternative from Seattle). My score: 159. Standout tracks: “Hustle,” “Time to Regulate (Gold Brother Remix).”

28 boygenius, boygenius EP (Alternative/folk rock from Memphis, Richmond, and Pasadena). My score: 150. Standout tracks: “Stay Down,” “Me & My Dog.”

29 lovelytheband, Finding It Hard to Smile (Indie pop/rock from Los Angeles). My score: 149. Standout tracks: “Your Whatever,” “Pity Party.”

30 Cumulus, Comfort World (Indie pop from Seattle). My score: 142. Standout tracks: “Retreat,” “Light & Sound”

31 Golden Drag, Pink Sky (Indie pop/rock from Toronto). My score: 142. Standout tracks: “’17 Til Infinity,” “Shoot the Breeze”

32 Oh Pep! I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You… (Pop from Melbourne, Australia). My score: 142. Standout tracks: “What’s the Deal With David?,” “Bleeding Hearts”

33 Bodega, Endless Scroll (Indie rock from Brooklyn). My score: 141. Standout tracks: “Jack in Titanic,” “Williamsburg Bridge”

34 Our Girl, Stranger Today (Indie pop/rock from Brighton, UK). My score: 141. Standout tracks: “I Really Like It,” “Our Girl”

35 Lori McKenna, The Tree (Americana/folk from Stoughton, Massachusetts). My score: 139. Standout tracks: “The Lot Behind St. Mary’s,” “Young and Angry Again”

36 Bad Moves, Tell No One (Indie power-pop from DC). My score: 128. Standout tracks: “Spirit FM,” “Cool Generator”

37 illuminati hotties, Kiss Yr Frenemies (Indie pop/rock from Los Angeles). My score: 118. Standout tracks: “Shape of My Hands,” “For Cheez (My Friend, Not the Food)”

38 Katie Ellen, Still Life EP (Indie pop/punk from Philadelphia). My score: 118. Standout tracks: “Lighthouse,” “City / Country”

39 The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl (Indie folk/pop from Portland). My score: 118. Standout tracks: “Once In My Life,” “Everything Is Awful”

40 Yo La Tengo, There’s a Riot Going On (Indie pop/rock from Hoboken, New Jersey). My score: 118. Standout tracks: “For You Too,” “Polynesia #1”

41 Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel (Indie pop/rock from Melbourne, Australia). My score: 109. Standout tracks: “City Looks Pretty,” “Sunday Roast,” “Help Your Self”

42 Lawrence, Living Room (Soul/pop from New York City). My score: 108. Standout tracks: “More,” “Try”

43 Long Neck, Will This Do? (Indie rock from Jersey City, New Jersey). My score: 108. Standout tracks: “Elizabeth,” “Love Letters”

44 The Spirit of the Beehive, Hypnic Jerks (Indie rock from Philadelphia). My score: 108. Standout tracks: “(Without You) In My Pocket,” “Mantra Is Repeated”

45 Ovlov, Tru (Indie rock from Newtown, Connecticut). My score: 106. Standout tracks: “Baby Alligator,” “Grab It From the Garden”

46 Beach House, 7 (Dream pop from Baltimore). My score: 105. Standout track: “Dive”

47 Menace Beach, Black Rainbow Sound (Indie rock from Leeds, UK). My score: 105. Standout track: “Black Rainbow Sound (feat. Brix Smith)”

48 Let’s Eat Grandma, I’m All Ears (Art pop from Norwich, UK). My score: 96. Standout tracks: “I Will Be Waiting,” “Donnie Darko”

49 Amanda Shires, To the Sunset (Americana/alt-country from Lubbock, Texas). My score: 95. Standout track: “Leave It Alone”

50 Michael Rault, It’s a New Day Tonight (Indie power-pop from Montreal, Canada). My score: 95. Standout track: “I’ll Be There”

51 Deafheaven, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (Post-metal from San Francisco). My score: 86. Standout tracks: “You Without End,” “Near”

52 Hilang Child, Years (Indie pop from London, UK). My score: 86. Standout tracks: “Sleepwalk,” “Rot”

53 Madeline Kenney, Perfect Shapes (Indie rock from Oakland). My score: 86. Standout tracks: “Perfect Shapes,” “Cut Me Off”

54 Anemone, Baby Only You & I (Psychedelic/dream pop from Montreal, Canada). My score: 85. Standout track: “Bout De Toi (Dub Remix #4)”

55 LCD Soundsystem, Some Remixes (Electronic/dance punk from Brooklyn). My score: 85. Standout track: “oh baby (lovefingers remix)”

56 Kamasi Washington, Heaven and Earth (Jazz from Los Angeles). My score: 83. Standout track: “Tiffakonkae”

57 Colleen Green, Casey’s Tape / Harmontown Loops (Indie pop-punk from Los Angeles). My score: 76. Standout tracks: “Disco,” “Here It Comes”

58 Paul White, Rejuvenate (Electronic from London, UK). My score: 76. Standout tracks: “Ice Cream Man (Gum & Ginoli Remix),” “Soul Reunion”

59 Shannen Moser, I’ll Sing (Folk from Philadelphia). My score: 76. Standout tracks: “The Ballad of Freddie Jones,” “Pleasentville”

60 S.Q.U.I.D., Waves EP (Dance/electronic from Wroclaw, Poland). My score: 76. Standout tracks: “33333,” “Stranger”

Some articles I found interesting this morning

Moisés Castillo photo at Associated Press. Caption: “A Honduran migrant, left, talks with a Border Patrol agent as he tries to cross over the U.S. border wall to San Diego, California, from Playas in in Tijuana, Mexico, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018.”

(Even more here)

December 21, 2018


Directing 2 percent of royalties from offshore drilling to the military has been a national policy for some time, but previous governments have never fully applied it

The Army High Command had held an emergency meeting that afternoon to discuss the new decision that could see the release of Lula. The Armed forces intervened in a previous Supreme Court ruling to deny the former President habeas corpus

Brazil’s attorney general has accused President Michele Temer of sitting at the center of “an institutionalized system of corruption” and has asked the courts to charge him with crimes as soon as he leaves office


La finalidad es brindarle facultades al Presidente de la República para eventuales procesos de paz y garantizar el orden público en el territorio

En los últimos dos años, al menos 63 líderes de sustitución de cultivos de uso ilícito han sido asesinados

La JEP tiene hasta el mes de febrero para emitir su concepto sobre el caso de Santrich

The FARC demobilized, the government didn’t fully fill the power vacuum, and now there’s a struggle for control


The actual wall — the sum of official and unofficial policy, of economic and family ties, of criminality and enforcement, of deprivation, and plenty — stretches much farther north to south

En los primeros cinco años de su operación la Guardia queda adscrita a la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional

El colectivo llamó a los diputados de Morena a no perpetrar “el fallido modelo de seguridad de los últimos años, miren la evidencia, escuchen a las víctimas y digan no a la Guardia Nacional militarizada”

Mexico’s new leftist government announced Thursday that it will allow the United States to send asylum seekers who cross illegally back to its territory and provide them with work visas and humanitarian assistance while they wait

The head of Mexico’s immigration agency, which would be responsible for implementing the new policy, appeared to undercut the agreement during a news conference a few hours later

What a “partial” government shutdown would affect

I just went through the outstanding appropriations bills and came up with this incomplete list of agencies that would be affected if parts of the U.S. federal government “shut down” at midnight tonight.

President Trump insists that he won’t sign a 2019 budget bill—not even a stopgap to keep the government open for a few weeks—unless it includes $5 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Senate rules require 60 votes to stop debate and vote on such a bill. There are only 51 Republicans in this Senate, and 53 in the Senate that begins on January 1 (when the House becomes majority Democratic). So this “partial shutdown” could drag on for a very long time.

Many of the agencies listed here will continue to operate to some extent, by requiring “essential” staff to report for work (though who knows when they’ll be paid), by depending on fee-based revenue, or other means. But if this shutdown is prolonged, nearly all will find themselves unable to operate normally, if at all.

Department of Agriculture

  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
  • Child Nutrition Programs
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program)

Department of Commerce

  • Bureau of the Census
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Department of Homeland Security

  • Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers
  • Transportation Security Administration
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • U.S. Secret Service

Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Federal Housing Administration
  • Government National Mortgage Association

Department of the Interior

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Forest Service
  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey

Department of Justice

  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Federal Prison System
  • U.S. Attorneys

Department of State

  • Export-Import Bank of the United States
  • Inter-American Foundation
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • Peace Corps
  • U.S. African Development Foundation
  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • U.S. Trade and Development Agency

Department of Transportation

  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Department of the Treasury

  • Office of Foreign Assets Control
  • Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
  • U.S. Mint

The White House

  • Council of Economic Advisers
  • Executive Office of the President
  • Homeland Security Council
  • National Security Council
  • Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy

The Judiciary

  • Courts of Appeals, District Courts, and Other Judicial Services
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Independent Agencies

  • Broadcasting Board of Governors
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Federal Election Commission
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • General Services Administration (GSA)
  • John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  • NASA
  • National Archives and Records Administration
  • National Endowment for Democracy
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • National Gallery of Art
  • National Science Foundation
  • National Transportation Safety Board
  • Office of Government Ethics
  • Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
  • Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Selective Service System
  • Small Business Administration
  • the Smithsonian Institution
  • U.S. Institute of Peace
  • U.S. International Trade Commission
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Washington, DC
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The day ahead: December 21, 2018

I’ll be reachable from late morning through the end of the day. (How to contact me)

The last few days before Christmas are usually some of the quietest of the year, a time for tying up loose ends and planning the next year amid a far calmer calendar and telephone. But this is 2018. We’ve got a fake aid package to Mexico, a border wall and government shutdown drama, a deal to force asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico, (and things I don’t work on but matter greatly, like the expulsion of CICIG workers from Guatemala and IACHR workers from Nicaragua)…

I’ll be in the office all day, with press interviews scheduled already at 9:00 and 10:00. This will be my last day in the office this year. Let’s all try and have a good holiday.

Forcing Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico Will Worsen Humanitarian Challenges on Both Sides of the Border

After the Trump administration announced a deal with Mexico that could force Central American asylum-seekers to spend years there, my colleague Elyssa Pachico and I quickly knocked out this statement. I seriously have no idea how Mexico plans to absorb what it has just committed to.

Forcing Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico Will Worsen Humanitarian Challenges on Both Sides of the Border
By Adam Isacson and Elyssa Pachico

Today, the Department of Homeland Security and the Mexican government announced that under a new policy, non-Mexican asylum seekers will be required to wait in Mexico while their case moves through U.S. immigration courts. This applies to all applicants who pass initial “credible fear” interviews, regardless of whether they entered the United States at or between ports of entry.

The Trump administration is shirking its responsibilities under U.S. and international law by forcing people seeking asylum to wait in potentially dangerous and extremely over-crowded conditions along the border in Mexico, a country which just had its most violent year on record. Many asylum-seekers will face conditions similar to those that drove them to flee their homes.

This is not the way to create a more efficient and orderly migration process at the border. All this does is create a bureaucratic, legal and humanitarian nightmare for the U.S. and Mexican governments, and for vulnerable people seeking protection.

Someone who passes a credible fear interview today routinely faces a wait of three years or more for an asylum hearing. Because the U.S. Justice Department employs only 395 immigration judges, the current backlog in U.S. immigration courts has reached 800,000 cases. Asylum-seeking families will end up waiting in Mexico for years. At least 93,000 people claimed credible fear at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018: under the new system, Mexico would have had to absorb nearly all of them. Yet right now, Mexico’s government doesn’t even fund short-term migrant shelters, which are all run by private and religious charities (with some support from states and municipalities). How is Mexico suddenly going to support hundreds of thousands of non-Mexicans for years?

It’s highly likely that this new policy will end up getting challenged in U.S. courts. Not only does it go against U.S. and international law, it violates due process rights. How are asylum seekers supposed to access U.S.-based immigration lawyers to argue their cases before a U.S. judge, if they’re sleeping in shelters in Mexico? There’s no indication that either the U.S. or Mexico is prepared to create a system that ensures asylum seekers can access legal counsel. Asylum seekers who don’t have lawyers representing them are significantly less likely to win their cases, regardless of the legitimacy of their claims. This policy could very well see more people who otherwise qualify for asylum get deported to their deaths.

Today’s announcement leaves some other important questions unanswered:

  • Has the U.S. government committed to any steps to reduce asylum-seekers’ wait times? We see nothing in today’s announcement.
  • Has the U.S. government committed any funds to help Mexico defray asylum-seekers’ housing, medical, and other humanitarian costs? We see nothing in today’s announcement.
  • Will asylum-seekers from outside Latin America—including thousands of Chinese, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Nepalese—also be forced to wait in Mexico, where they don’t speak the language?
  • What will happen to asylum seekers who tell U.S. authorities and credible-fear interviewers, “I fear for my life inside Mexico?” (An official told Vox that those who “demonstrated to a U.S. official that they feared persecution in Mexico” won’t be sent to Mexico; Voxnotes that “It is not yet clear whether those claims would be held to the same standard that’s generally used to screen asylum seekers — a ‘credible fear’ of persecution.”)

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

December 20, 2018

Western Hemisphere Regional

Some 9,800 are in facilities with 100-plus total kids, according to confidential government data obtained and cross-checked by The Associated Press


Rio will finish the year with the highest number of police killings since the state started collecting that data in 1998. The previous record was 1,330 in 2007

El Salvador

Despite international support, Melendez has powerful opponents in the ruling leftist party. El Salvador’s lawmakers could make their decision as soon as this week


Morales has also been garnering support from none other than US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has come out in his support at critical moments in the situation with the commission


Espinal was deported from the United States in late November and barred from returning for five years


For migrants, remaining in northeastern Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated in the U.S. could have devastating consequences Reynosa might soon be home to hundreds or thousands of migrants waiting to seek refuge in the United States. No one is sure how they would survive here

In the past, Mexico hasn’t allowed the US to use this provision to return Central Americans and other non-Mexicans to Mexican soil. Now, they have relented

Individuals arriving in or entering the United States from Mexico—illegally or without proper documentation—may be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings

Las acciones que tomen los gobiernos de México y de Estados Unidos no constituyen un esquema de Tercer País Seguro, en el que se obligaría a las personas migrantes en tránsito a solicitar asilo en México


El escritor Sergio Ramírez (Premio Cervantes 2017) no ve una salida a la actual crisis nicaragüense. Ortega reprime, dice, pero no gobierna. Los dirigentes de las manifestaciones de abril y mayo están muertos, en el exilio o presos y hoy no hay líderes políticos

The day ahead: December 20, 2018

I’m most reachable in the morning. (How to contact me)

This afternoon I’m on a call with a foundation program officer, and then I’m off to the GAO to meet with a team working on a report about military training programs. Otherwise I’ll be in the office prepping for those meetings, doing some research, and keeping up on the border wall/shutdown situation.

Some articles I found interesting this morning

(Even more here)

December 19, 2018

Western Hemisphere Regional

If Trump did order the military to build a wall anyway, Democrats or landowners could file a lawsuit and seek an immediate injunction to halt the construction

Right now, the Trump administration’s immigration policy is focused on making it less appealing to try to come to the US — specifically, by reducing the chance that a migrant will ever be able to earn an American paycheck

In the Yuma sector, which stretches across 126 miles of border in southeastern Arizona and Southern California, agents spent more than 25% of their time, or about 9,000 man-hours, last year on tasks like feeding children and chauffeuring families

Federal officials have reversed course and announced they will reduce fingerprint requirements of potential sponsors for detained children

As of November 30, 2018, the number of pending cases on the court’s active docket topped eight-hundred thousand (809,041) cases. This is almost a fifty percent (49.1%) increase compared to the 542,411 cases pending at the end of January 2017 when President Trump took office

To avoid getting cases dismissed, the administration could not conduct the type of lightning-quick prosecutions that it practices elsewhere along the border


The P.C.C. has rapidly grown in strength in recent years, investigators say, and now largely controls cocaine and gun shipments into Brazil

Folha and its staff are prepared for whatever comes next. “As the Americans say, it’s not our first rodeo”

Colombia, Honduras

The Honduran Naval Force (FNH, in Spanish) bought two Multi-Mission Interceptor 35 (MMI 35) speedboats from Colombia’s Science and Technology Corporation for Naval, Maritime, and Riverine Industry Development


Los aviones para este trabajo “están prácticamente listos, pero hay que hacer algunos ajustes en las boquillas de fumigación”

Lo que pasó en esas horas es la prueba más clara de que se rompió un pacto entre las bandas criminales La Empresa y La Local, que tenían repartido el control de la ilegalidad en las 12 comunas

At least seven massacres have been committed by myriad groups since March last year, while murders of human rights defenders and local activists have soared


The measure is the first approved by Congress related to heavily sanctioned Cuba in nearly two decades and represents a symbolic victory for the lobby favoring normalization of ties


El Gobierno de Morales ordena la expulsión de los funcionarios de la Cicig incumpliendo los protocolos internacionales


“En circunstancia de rechazo retiraríamos al Ejército completamente a los cuarteles. Creo que sería irresponsable que eso sucediera”

El gobierno de López Obrador tiene que dejar de jugar una política que oscila entre avestruz y policía –a muchos se les deja pasar y otros tantos son deportados


El Ejército es una institución del Estado, pero por sus características no necesariamente tiene que ser parte ni cómplice de la dictadura

His father, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, was a crusading newspaper editor who was gunned down by an unknown assassin in 1978, triggering street riots amid charges that his killing was ordered by the country’s hated dictator Anastasio Somoza

Exiliados de sus redacciones, los periodistas de la revista Confidencial y el programa televisivo Esta Semana trabajan desde donde pueden para continuar denunciando a un régimen que hoy tiene más presos políticos que los que tenía el dictador Anastasio Somoza

Hay que intentar pararlos: ocuparse, por todos los medios posibles, de pararlos. Es necesario defendernos, juntarnos, solidarizarnos: no perder las pocas vías de expresión que van quedando


This move would be counterproductive. Instead, external powers should step up efforts to find a negotiated pathway out of Venezuela’s crisis

“Sale una noticia por ahí: Rusia prepara la instalación de una base militar en (la isla venezolana) La Orchila. Ojalá fuera verdad, no una, dos, tres, cuatro, diez”, dijo Cabello

Mid-Wednesday border wall / shutdown update

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will shortly introduce a simple bill keeping the still-unfunded part of the U.S. government funded, at 2018 levels, through February 8. This Continuing Resolution will avert a partial government shutdown on Friday December 21. It will not include new wall-building money.
  • Scheduling the next budget/shutdown deadline for February 8 “would give the new Democratic House time to organize,” said Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama).
  • “A stopgap bill would essentially push the government spending fight into the new year, when Democrats will assume control of the House and Mr. Trump’s negotiating leverage — already on the wane — will be considerably weakened,” The New York Times explains.
  • Next steps, according to Reuters: “A Senate Democratic aide said the appropriations bill…was expected to pass the Senate either on Wednesday or Thursday. The House of Representatives would then have to pass the bill and hope that Trump signs it into law.”
  • If a February 8 Continuing Resolution reaches the White House, President Trump “will take a look at that certainly,” senior presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway told reporters December 19.
  • The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations bill includes $5 billion for wall construction, as President Trump had demanded. The Senate Appropriations Committee includes $1.6 billion—the amount in the Trump administration’s original request, from February—for construction of fencing using existing designs, not a wall. Senate Democrats have since lowered to $1.3 billion the amount they say they’d be willing to fund. On December 18, Sen. McConnell suggested to Democrats a bill with $1.6 billion for fencing, plus an additional $1 billion for Trump to spend as he sees fit. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) rejected that as a “slush fund.”
  • On December 18 White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders gave a first strong indication of White House flexibility on the border-wall issue. She told Fox News that the White House would work with congressional leaders on a bill to get $1.6 billion for fencing, and would try to move money around within other government departments to cobble together additional wall funding. “There are certainly a number of different funding sources that we’ve identified that we can use, that we can couple with the money that would be given through congressional appropriations that would help us get to that $5 billion that the president needs in order to protect our border,” she said. During a White House briefing on the 18th, Sanders added that Trump has “asked every [federal] agency to look and see if they have money that can be used for that purpose.”
  • In a pair of December 19 tweets, President Trump reinforced the argument that other departments of the U.S. government could contribute to the wall. “The United States Military will build the Wall!” he declared. On the 18th, a Trump tweet backed off his insistence on a concrete wall design: “we are not building a Concrete Wall, we are building artistically designed steel slats, so that you can easily see through it….”
  • Democratic leaders have made clear that the president does not have the legal authority to move funds from other purposes into wall-building, without congressional approval. “If you’ve got that kind of cushion in your budget and you don’t need that money, use it to pay down the debt,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. “We gave him what he wanted. He ought to take it.”
  • Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Bloomberg it is unclear what might give President Trump authority to shift money around for wall-building without congressional approval. “I think we’d all have to talk to our lawyers and figure out what his authority is and whether it requires Congress to approve it.”
  • A USA Today/Suffolk poll released December 17 had bad news for the White House. It found respondents widely opposing a partial government shutdown for border wall money, by a 54 percent to 29 percent margin. 43 percent said that the president and the Republicans would bear the blame for a shutdown. 24 percent would blame the Democrats, and 30 percent would blame both sides equally.
  • On December 16, White House advisor Stephen Miller, an immigration hawk, told CBS’s Face the Nation that President Trump was willing to undergo a partial government shutdown in order to get border-wall funding. “We’re going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration,” he said.

The day ahead: December 19, 2018

I’m around in the morning. (How to contact me)

This afternoon I’m speaking and facilitating a breakout group of regional military personnel at the OAS Inter-American Defense College, which is having its annual human rights and international humanitarian law conference. In the morning I’ll be in the office, mainly catching up on correspondence and trying to figure out if the government is going to avoid shutting down over the border wall on Friday.


People have asked me, “Didn’t you listen to Trump when he said that he would build a wall?” I didn’t take the idea seriously during the campaign.

From “I voted for Trump. Now his wall may destroy my butterfly paradise,” a Washington Post column by Luciano Guerra, “a nature photographer and outreach coordinator and educator for the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.”

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